Utrecht University, the Netherlands / Deakin University, Australia
Thesis: Young People’s Learning in Digital Worlds: The Alienation and Reimagining of Education
Research supervisors: Prof. dr. Mariëtte de Haan, Utrecht University, Prof. dr. Sanne Akkerman, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, Prof. Julian Sefton-Green, Deakin University, Eve Mayes, PhD, Deakin University, Australia

As I am at the start of my PhD that is part of the research project Young People’s Learning in Digital Worlds: The Alienation and Re-Imagining of Education, I was looking at ways to deepen my knowledge of the sociocultural theories of learning and education in which this research is firmly situated. When I came across the ISCAR Summer University (SU), I realized this could be the perfect place to do exactly that.

My PhD project is supervised by prof. dr. Mariëtte de Haan and prof. dr. Sanne Akkerman from the pedagogical and educational department of the faculty of social sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and is set up in collaboration with prof. Julian Sefton-Green from Deakin University in Australia. However, my background is not in the pedagogical or educational sciences, but in media studies in which I had a strong focus on philosophical perspectives. Hence, I could potentially benefit quite a bit from involving myself in an academic atmosphere in which the sociocultural perspective on learning is embraced and explored. All in all, this course will hopefully help me in obtaining a thorough understanding of my position within this socio-cultural learning paradigm at an early phase in my PhD.

The research problem of my thesis focuses upon obtaining an in depth understanding of how young people themselves perceive their learning processes in digital media platforms. By ethnographically working with active, young digital learners, I am specifically interested in exploring how these digital forms of learning impact young people’s relation towards more traditional forms of learning. My reason for being interested in using the cultural historical activity theories on learning for my project is, hence, twofold. First, my supervisors engage quite extensively with these theories in their work. Second, more importantly, the idea that learning happens between object, subject and tool is crucial in underpinning my theoretical and empirical research of the relation between young person, media and environment. In other words, this understanding of learning as lying within activities and relations is, I think, crucial to discuss and empirically research learning in digital contexts.

As interdisciplinarity is at the heart of ISCAR SU 2019, I hope the university will allow me to fully explore the possible theoretical and methodological connections between my own background and the educational sciences. For example, I would like to explore the possibilities of a new materialist reading of Vygotsky’s theory to see what a sociocultural understanding of learning entails when you really think from the relation, the activity: what happens in the zone? Apart from bringing these theoretical quandaries to the SU, I could bring my experience with working in international and interdisciplinary contexts, contributing to an open and interdisciplinary learning environment. In sum, I think I could contribute to the SU’s critical theoretical, interdisciplinary and international engagement with the pedagogical and educational field.

All in all, I think I could benefit much from participating in the ISCAR SU 2019. First, in terms of obtaining an in-depth understanding of cultural historical activity theory. Second, as it will help me to think about sociocultural theories of learning in relation to my ethnographic research. Lastly, because it will help me to position my own research within the broader academic community dealing with education and pedagogy. If you are looking for a critical thinker and enthusiastic participant, I would love to be that addition to your summer university.